China’s Olympic-Sized Security Investment

A $6.5 billion effort ensured athletes and visitors enjoyed a safe environment in Beijing

The 2008 Summer Games used 87 different Olympic facilities including 37 competition venues and 45 training venues. Non-competition facilities included the Olympic Park, Olympic Village, Olympic Media Village and National Conference Center. All of these facilities were managed from the Digital Beijing Building, a auxiliary information facility that served as the technical support and telecommunications center for the Games, including security monitoring.
The Olympic Park was the center of the 2008 Summer Games. Ten competition venues were located there, including the National Stadium (The Birds Nest, above) and the National Aquatics Center (The Water Cube). After the games, the Olympic Park will become a public center for sports competitions, conferences and exhibitions, culture and entertainment, business and shopping.
All of the facilities were under heavy security. Attendees unknowingly passed checkpoints at several places before they even entered Olympic venues. Security extended outward from competition venues into three circles with varying levels of security. The outer circle, called the “soft ring” or “dirty area,” extended to the edge of residential areas surrounding the Olympic venues. This area was monitored by video surveillance systems and equipped with intrusion prevention systems and was closed-off when anything unusual happened.
Moving inward toward the competition venue, the middle circle of security, called the “hard ring” or “clean area,” was also monitored by video surveillance systems and equipped with intrusion prevention. Before entering the clean area, a visitor had to pass a checkpoint equipped with electronic article surveillance and detection equipment. The “inner circle,” called the “security zone,” included the interiors of all Olympic facilities. This inner zone was protected by a variety of security systems, such as video surveillance systems, access control systems, burglar-alarm systems and foot patrols.
The highest investment on equipment was on video surveillance, capturing one-third of spending for electronic security ($28.5 million). Video surveillance and monitoring was widespread — extending through and beyond the outer circle. Cameras were widely distributed throughout each venue, providing coverage with no blind-spots. Monitoring was done in real-time with long distance coverage over multiple locations and integrated with the video surveillance systems network at the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau.
The next highest spending for security was on electronic article surveillance ($25.9 million). EAS systems included personnel and vehicle security inspection equipment, detection and disposal equipment for various hazardous materials, security doors, X-ray machines, metal detectors and bomb detectors. This equipment was used at checkpoints when attendees entered the middle circle. Electronic ticketing ($23.3 million) was also used at the middle ring. Up to 30 electronic ticket readers were used in each venue — not only to detect fake tickets and repeated use of tickets, but also to track the ticket owners throughout the Olympic venues.
Access control ($5.3 million) and intrusion alarms ($3.6 million) accounted for only a small amount of security spending as these systems were used in secured interior areas. Access control was mainly achieved using Smart Cards. Intrusion detection systems used in the Olympic venues include infrared intrusion detectors and ‘glass-break’ detectors.
The Chinese used electronic security systems for the Olympics that were of the highest technical level available. The systems were highly integrated. In fact, the Chinese have adopted a policy of constructing “intelligent buildings,” where electronic security systems are specified during construction and fully integrated with other building systems, including the IT systems.
Becoming a security provider for the 2008 Summer Games required many levels of approval. The many multi-national security companies that provided security included GE, Panasonic, Honeywell, Siemens, Sony, Pelco, KABA Group and Symbol. Each had to navigate a complicated bureaucracy in order to be selected as a security provider for the games. This system will be replicated for upcoming events, such as the Asian Games and 2010 World Expo to be held in Shanghai.
SIA has been reporting on the Chinese security market for the past few years. SIA’s suite of China Security Market Reports includes the baseline China Security Market Report with 2005 data and a 2007 Update, which delivers data and analysis of the dynamic Chinese market for security. Special reports include an Olympic Update, providing details on security for the 2008 Beijing Summer Games, and a special report on the 2010 Expo that outlines the event’s security strategy and delivers detailed information on what it takes to be selected as a supplier for this kind of world-class event.

Linda Yelton is manager of Research and Technology for the Security Industry Association (SIA). For more information on this SIA Security Market Report and others, go to